Based on the seemingly endless flow of people streaming into New York City fro-yo shops fiending for the stuff like Walking Dead zombies on the hunt for brains, I’d say I’m not alone in my obsession over frozen yogurt.
But nothing disturbs this self-proclaimed yogurt-walker more than witnessing customers mindlessly piling toppings onto their yogurt without much thought to the resulting combination. Just as in wine or in beer pairing, there are certain fruits, sauces and dry toppings that best complement each yogurt flavor. Failing to respect the privilege of hand-crafting one’s own yogurt-art is an abuse of power that must be stopped, in the name of all that is good and frosty.
In the modest opinion of this yogoisseur (that’s a yogurt connoisseur), one of the best places to grab the stuff in New York is 16 Handles. The 42-store franchise is known for its wide variety of deliciously unique flavors, making it the perfect base for experimentation. I visited the Murray Hill location, where I was allowed to run wild, inventing some tasty recipes, and making a few epic whiffs that no yogurt eater should ever consider. With the below inspiration, you won’t freeze up the next time you’re in front of a frozen yogurt bar.
Peanut Butter and Jelly
Combine peanut butter yogurt with raspberry sauce and fresh berries for a creation that pays homage to your favorite childhood sandwich. Invert the recipe with raspberry sorbet, peanut butter sauce and Butterfinger crumbles for an equally tasty treat that’ll transport you back to grade school (let’s hope you weren’t bullied).
Prefer summer camp to lunchtime recess? Pair graham cracker yogurt with marshmallow sauce, chocolate chips and crushed graham crackers, and you’ll practically be able to smell the roasty, toasty campfire. You can even kick things up a notch by adding hot fudge (we promise not to tell Mom on Visiting Day).
Sweet + Salty
Fans of Peanut M&M’s or Frosty Fries know that sweet and salty flavors go together like Mary and Jesus. So naturally, when one drapes nuts, chocolate-covered pretzels and hot fudge over salted-caramel yogurt, the result is nothing short of divine.
Made with real coconut water, Coco Loco is my favorite 16 Handles sorbet. The refreshing, dairy-free flavor was clearly meant to be topped with shredded coconut, pineapple and a single raspberry or cherry. For an adult treat that Jimmy Buffet would surely approve of, sneak in a splash of rum. Or two.
The Vegetarian Elvis
It’s good to be the King. And now you can chow down like him by blending peanut butter yogurt with peanuts, bananas and an optional drizzle of honey. Carnivores, if you can convince your local yogurt shop to offer bacon, God bless your dedication to authenticity.
Cookies on Crack
There’s a reason dessert wines such as Moscato d’Asti are sweet: Sometimes the best accompaniment is simply more of the same. So what goes better with cookies & cream yogurt than crushed Oreos and cookies & cream bark? Nothing.
If all of these decadent treats are inducing chest pains just by reading about them, pull yourself some pomegranate yogurt and drop in some blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and almonds for a (relatively) healthy post-workout snack. It’s (almost) all natural!
Good Morning Honey
Want to treat yourself in the a.m., without taking a cheat day? Try Greek honey yogurt with granola, blueberries and a touch of honey for the most wholesome fro-yo cup one can fill. I know what I’m having for breakfast tomorrow. And every day after that…
The Very Bad
Embellishing a sundae with a versatile garnish such as whipped cream may be a sure thing, but mindlessly lobbing candy corn onto any old flavor is about as dangerous as, well, lobbing candy corn onto anything.
Avoid the following yogurt-topping combinations at all costs:
Watermelon Sorbet + Peanut Butter Sauce
Sure, peanut butter goes great with many creamy fruit yogurts—but tart sorbet? Not so much. And, as the water-based sorbet melts and melds with the sticky, gooey PB, you’ll have an especially disturbing concoction on your hands (perhaps quite literally).
Mint Yogurt + Fruity Pebbles
Pairing mint yogurt with Fruity Pebbles will taste like a Saturday morning from your youth…after having brushed your teeth. Not to mention the whole thing will look like clown vomit. To play it safe with mint, stick with chocolate and/or more neutral toppings such as nuts.
Cotton Candy + Pineapple
The sticky, fluffy flavor of cotton candy goes terribly with the acidic tang of fresh pineapple (or—heaven forbid—pineapple sauce). As it does with most citrus fruits, salty nuts and wet peanut butter. The confection is delightful on its own, but arguably the most difficult of all to pair.
Above all, always remember: With great yogurt comes great responsibility.